HAMILTON, N.Y.--It is very early in the long season to talk about turning points. But after extending their streak of horrendous hockey to five periods, the Crimson icemen exploded for five goals in the final 22 minutes to steal a thrilling, come-from-behind, 7-6 victory from Colgate here Saturday night.
Picking up where Friday's 9-1 loss at RPI left off, the Harvard defense decided to compensate the Red Raiders for an injury to top scorer Denis Lapensee by offering shots on net, two for a quarter. Colgate, a young team with strong, hard-skating forwards, jumped at the offer and, despite a slow start, scored three quick second-period goals to take a 6-1 lead.
Understandably, the prevailing feeling among those who had watched the icemen allow 28 goals in their last 11 periods was not one of joyous optimism. So many red lights in so short a time make you dizzy.
But momentum is so important to this team. The squad showed it with a come-from-behind spurt win at Brown, solidified the claim with three quick ones to tie Northeastern, and proved it beyond a shadow of a doubt when that 5-5 tie with the Huskies became, in the time it takes to buy a hot dog, an 11-5 disaster.
And when Rob Burns took a Shayne Kukulowicz pass and beat Colgate's Terry McSweeney for a power-play marker with just over a minute remaining in the second period, the momentum--which had sustained the Red Raiders through six straight minutes of penalty killing (including almost four minutes down two men), began imperceptibly to slip toward the visitors' bench.
"The first two periods we were really playing lousy," forward Greg Olson said after the game. "I have to give a lot of credit to coach [Billy Cleary], he gave us a pep talk in the locker room, and laid it on the line. It got us determined."
Olson's line, the potent connection with Tom Murray and Mike Watson that team captain Murray likes to call "Instant Karma," came out for the final stanza ready to play.
Just eight seconds into the period, Watson scored. After taking the opening faceoff, he slid the puck to Murray, who fed Olson cutting toward the net on a three-on-one. Olson passed to Watson ("I heard Michael yell"--Olson), and the junior centerman scored his team-leading fourth goal to cut the margin to 6-3.
"Our line felt that if we did good that first line shift it would catch on," Olson said. "Instant Karma" wasn't finished. Just 30 seconds later, Watson scored again, from Murray and Olson. And two shifts later, Murray scored his fourth (on Olson's sixth assist of the season). Suddenly, it was 6-5. Suddenly every one of the 2000 students screaming "Go Gate" knew Harvard was going to win.
"I wasn't thinking about winning or losing. I was just thinking about working hard," Watson said yesterday. At the 14-minute mark, he took a pass from Rick Benson and took off down ice with Mark Fusco trailing.
"I saw Mark on the right and I could hear him hollering, but the defenseman backed off and he wasn't really open, so I shot."
His shot blazed wide of the net, but clanged off the back boards and bounced back out front. Fusco calmly poked it home to tie the score.
With 54 seconds remaining in the contest, in an ending reminiscent of last year's emotional overtime win over Boston University, a freshman scored his first varsity goal to win the game. Last year, Dave Connors had the honors; this time Connors fed Kukulowicz for the goal. And at 19:06, the team that had allowed 31 goals in five games rushed off the bench to embrace the Yardling; 54 seconds later the squad's record stood at 3-2, and the icemen were off to the happiest locker room scene since the victory over the Terriers last November.